Workers at a medical supplies factory in Beijing, China, have taken the owner of the factory hostage. He has been locked in his office for several days, and subject to sleep deprivation techniques. The action was taken following a dispute over unpaid wages and severance pay.
The factory boss, Chip Starnes, visited the factory last week to ‘lay-off’ thirty workers. He gave them a redundancy payment and then intended on leaving. As soon as the rest of the workers on shift realised what was happening they thought the entire factory was about to close down and barricaded him in his office.
When interviewed, workers also claimed that their action was also due to unpaid wages over the last few months. The company deny there are any wages outstanding.
It has since surfaced that Starnes has made secret plans to shift production out of China. He claims that it is getting much harder and more expensive to run a business in China. Whilst there are many disgraceful employers in China, wages in manufacturing have risen by 20% in less than a decade. This is leading to a deluge of internationally owned manufacturers leaving China and moving to countries like India,
Bangladesh, and Vietnam – where they can treat workers worse and pay them less. There are countless examples of companies doing ‘midnight flits’, which is why the workers are understandably concerned.
In a strange turn of events the police are treating the kidnapping as an internal/industrial dispute, and are refusing to intervene as they do not believe Mr Starnes to be in immediate physical danger.
Company lawyers are said to be attempting to resolve what they describe as a ‘misunderstanding’…..